Samah Sabawi, Palestinian author and playwright says Palestinians are waking up to the reality of political separation and the system of an apartheid
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, has announced that he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany this week before meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to address the escalating violence in Israel. The meeting with Abbas is expected to take place in Jordan. In the latest site of violence, a 29-year-old Eritrean immigrant, Habtom Zerhom, was killed Sunday night by a security guard in the Israeli city of Beersheba. He was then cornered by a mob that began cursing, spitting on him, kicking and hitting him with a chair. It is reported by local media that the crowd tried obstructing paramedics, chanting ‘death to Arabs’, and ‘Arabs out’. Footage and photos show that Hatom curled up, [drained] in a pool of blood and surrounded by police officers with guns drawn. He was mistaken for an alleged terrorists, as moments earlier a man described as a Palestinian Israeli had stormed the Beersheba bus station with a pistol and a knife. Thus far, 41 Palestinians and 8 Israelis and 1 Eritrean have been killed in the spur of violence. Now joining us to discuss these events from Melbourne, Australia is Samah Sabawi. Samah is a Palestinian-Australian-Canadian writer, commentator and author, and playwright. She is a policy advisor to the Palestinian Policy Network, Al-Shabaka, and a member of the board of directors of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations. Thank you so much for joining us today. SAMAH SABAWI: Thank you for having me. PERIES: Samah, so what do you make of this recent spur of violence in Israel-Palestine? SABAWI: Well you know, Israel is coming face to face with the impossibility of realizing its dream of maintaining control and breaking the Palestinian spirit, and maintaining Jewish privilege and the Jewish character of a state, while at the same time holding on to the land and the resources that belong to the Palestinians and pushing the Palestinians off this land. Israel has always spoken nothing but the language of violence towards others who challenge it on this very racist idea of Jewish supremacy. And this language of violence has translated, and we’ve seen it in the past several weeks, into attacks, various attacks, lynch mob mentality, against people inside Israel. The sad, tragic story of the Eritrean asylum seeker is but one example of an obvious mistake. He was obviously mistaken. I mean, he was an Eritrean asylum seeker, not even a Palestinian. There was another story of a Jewish man who was stabbed by another Jewish Israeli who thought he was an Arab. That was an obvious mistake. But these are the obvious mistakes, and one wonders about all the other mistakes that are not so obvious. We know already that [inaud.]’s death was, he was murdered in cold blood. He posed absolutely no threat to the authorities when he was shot down, or to anybody else. There’s been various horrific videos that are going around of Israelis calling for the extrajudicial execution of people that have been apprehended by either mobs in the streets or by Israeli security forces. We know that people who throw stones to challenge Israel’s 48 years of military occupation of Palestinian land, so those youth who throw stones, are now being meted with live bullets. The orders are to treat them as a very large offense, which is causing the death of so many. Stone throwers are being seen as, are being meted out punishment, that’s at par with everything else. So a crime of throwing a stone is the same as the most extreme kind of terror, crime you can think about. So it goes on and on and on, and in the absence of any real solution it seems to me that nothing right now is, is in the horizon that can actually stop this cycle form continuing. PERIES: Samah, this quote from Sari Bashi from the Human Rights Watch is really interesting. He says that the death of an asylum seeker at the hands of security guards and an angry mob is a tragic but foreseeable outgrowth of a climate in which some Israeli politicians encourage citizens to take the law into their own hands. Is this fair comment, given that the Prime Minister Netanyahu has now gone on record condemning the attack? SABAWI: He condemned this attack because the man who was killed was not a Palestinian. He has not condemned other attacks where the person who was lynched in a mob and killed was a Palestinian. He certainly hasn’t condemned–not only has he not condemned, he’s been behind the policies that have seen worse things happening. I mean, you just have to think of Gaza 2014, last year, and what Israel and Israeli policies are capable of doing to innocent civilians. So you know, he’s only condemned this one attack because this was a very obvious mistake. But the reality is Netanyahu, as well as other members of his cabinet, have used a very provocative language. Have incited against and roused hatred against Palestinians and against people who are not of Jewish background who live on the land. And this is, you read–you saw Human Rights Watch is absolutely correct to, in the statement that they’ve made. PERIES: Samah, so then what is the political solution that the organizations that you work with and the groups that are thinking about this deeply think is a solution to address the violence as well as the minds of these young people that are hopeless, at this moment? SABAWI: Well you know, before I get to the various political solutions out there I want to start with what Israel’s suggestions for a solution is. And there was just an article today in Haaretz, and it was about Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli defense minister. He was speaking on Israel’s army radio. And he was talking about what’s going on and his outlook for a future. But the outlook for a future, whether coming from Ya’alon’s mouth or whether it’s coming from Netanyahu’s mouth, it’s all about conflict management and maintaining some kind of a status quo of maintaining the occupation. And if I could just use the exact words that Moshe Ya’alon has used, it was imposing political separation as a long-term solution. We’re talking about an apartheid system. Separation is apartheid. And so there is–so that’s what they have in store for us. And I think this has become very clear for the Palestinians, whether be it in Palestine’s occupied territories or even inside Israel. And we’re not talking about Palestinians inside Israel, and we really should. There’s been 100 arrests of Palestinians inside Israel the last couple of weeks who are also protesting with their brothers and sisters against this multi-layered Israeli system of apartheid, where if you’re Jewish you get absolute preferential treatment and you get the full arrays of human rights. If you’re a Palestinian citizen of Israel but you’re not Jewish you’re a second-class citizen. And then if you’re a resident of Jerusalem you get a resident ID but you don’t get citizenship rights. If you’re in the West Bank you’re a stateless, you know–and you’ve got very limited rights in terms of movement and access to schools and so on. And if you’re in Gaza you’re at the very bottom. And of course if you’re a refugee outside of Palestine, a Palestinian refugee, you have no right to return and you have absolutely no rights in anything inside Palestine. So I think Palestinians are waking up to this reality of political separation and this system of apartheid, and together they’re challenging it. And so if you’re asking me what a solution might be, I think the solution can start with more people understanding that the problem is in Israel’s plans to implement apartheid against the Palestinians, and to divide and continue to conquer and continue to expand on Palestinian land and resources in order to maintain Jewish supremacy for the Jewish citizens of Israel. That idea has to be discussed and talked about, and there has to be solutions. And I think it all starts with us agreeing that Palestinians and Israelis are both human beings and should be treated with absolute equality under the laws of the state that controls every aspect of their lives. Right now and ever since 1967 there’s only been one state in control of the lives of the Palestinians and the Israelis in all of historic Palestine, and this one state is Israel. And I think that’s the reality a lot of Palestinians are waking up to and challenging, and challenging together. So my hope is that we start talking about ending Israel’s apartheid regime. PERIES: And most people would argue that Palestinians have already been living under apartheid state already. And so going forward you expect it to be more intensified. SABAWI: Going forward I expect the discourse to change so that we’re naming it for what it is. You know, Moshe Ya’alon in his interview on Israel’s army radio called it political separation. Different Israelis call it by different names. But I think it is absolutely apartheid, and it is a crime. It is a violation of international law. And if we start thinking about ways in which we can break down the system of apartheid and discrimination then we’re closer to actually looking at solutions in the long run. PERIES: Samah Sabawi, thank you so much for joining us today. SABAWI: Thank you. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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